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UN Human Rights Chief urges all States to outlaw discrimination against LGBTI people

NEW YORK (20 September 2017) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Wednesday appealed to governments to set up the necessary protections to keep lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people safe from harm and discrimination.

Speaking at a ministerial event at the UN General Assembly on Ending Violence and Discrimination against LGBTI Persons, High Commissioner Zeid said that he understood that in many parts of the world this is a difficult topic to broach.

“When pressed, officials sometimes tell me their hands are tied: the public, they say, will never accept equality for LGBTI people. But surely this is back to front. If public opinion is hostile towards LGBTI people, then sure that makes it all the more urgent for governments to act to protect them,” he said.

“Reports by my Office frequently reveal a landscape of brutal violence and widespread discrimination, fuelled by negative public attitudes and in many cases actively sanctioned by the State.”

“We ask all governments to allow individuals to love whom they choose, to outlaw discrimination, tackle hate crimes and the bullying so frequent in schools, and to protect intersex children from harm – including by banning medically unnecessary surgery on intersex infants. The onus has to be on governments to protect and respect rights – and explain to the public why these measures are needed,” the High Commissioner added.

High Commissioner Zeid said that while gay and lesbian people – and to a lesser extent trans people – have seen huge gains over the past 20 years, many of those gains are fragile and face backlash.

“As always, when rights are rolled back, it’s minorities that are most exposed – immigrants, religious minorities, racial minorities and, of course, lesbian, gay, bi, trans and intersex people. Invariably, those who lose the most are those who have the least to begin with – the least power, money and public support,” he said.

The High Commissioner stressed that governments alone cannot end discrimination and called on all – the media, schools, faith leaders, the business community – to stand up for the human rights of LGBTI people.

ENDS

The High Commissioner’s full speech at the ministerial event is here: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=22110&LangID=E

For more information and media requests, please contact Ravina Shamdasani at ravina.shamdasani@un.org.